Travelers will soon experience a seamless journey between Atlantic City (ACY) or Lehigh Valley (ABE) airports and Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) thanks to American Airlines‘ Landline bus service.
This ground service has been granted security clearance from TSA, making travel more convenient and stress-free for all passengers.
Last summer, the airline collaborated with ground transportation company Landline to introduce bus “flights” that connect its Philadelphia hub to three smaller regional airports—Atlantic City, Lehigh Valley (also known as Allentown-Bethlehem), and Lancaster (LNS).
Passengers can park their cars, check into their flights, and check their bags at their local airport before being shuttled to PHL in a luxury motor coach.
American Airlines launched the service after a pilot shortage forced it to ground around 100 regional jets and amid rising costs and mounting environmental worries that have made short-haul connections less viable for airlines.
While they don’t have the glamour of air travel, coaches can be driven by staff with less training than pilots, can help airlines reduce carbon emissions to meet their environmental targets, and are time-competitive with flights on routes under 200 miles.
However, until now, Landline passengers have needed to clear security upon arrival at the Philadelphia airport. While their connections are guaranteed—and they’d be rebooked if traffic or security delays keep them from their next flight—the additional security hurdle has added time and uncertainty to the journey.
A Landline bus operating AA6355 departing from a gate airside at the Atlantic City airport this morning. The bus arrived at @PHLAirport gate F8, where passengers could connect on to other American flights without needing to clear security. https://t.co/bew3Sea6SX https://t.co/Ifb9HD8pJE
— Edward Russell / threads.net/@mrerussell (@ByERussell) July 12, 2023
Upon launching the Landline connections, American Airlines expressed its hope that it would soon be able to conduct these coach journeys inside security, or “airside,” in airport parlance.
A year on, it’s finally won approval from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) for airside, security-cleared bus journeys from Atlantic City and Lehigh Valley airports.
That means travelers can arrive at their local airport, clear security there, get on the bus, and be delivered airside in Philadelphia, skirting the longer security lines at the busier airport.
“We are excited to offer customers a more convenient experience to clear security at their local airport and arrive airside at our Philadelphia hub with a seamless connection to our global network,” Gary Tomasulo, Vice President of Corporate Security at American Airlines, said.
“This program streamlines the passenger experience and enables travelers to seamlessly travel out of a large international airport conveniently by going through our security screening process from a smaller international airport,” added Gerardo Spero, TSA’s Federal Security Director for Philadelphia International Airport.
American Airlines and Landline had to demonstrate they could keep TSA-screened passengers sterile during their bus journeys to offer the service. “We have put in numerous security requirements for the bus operators and all airline personnel to ensure robust security protocols are followed at all times,” explained Spero.
According to Landline CEO David Sunde, this includes sealing all doors and windows on the coach (while still ensuring passengers can exit in an emergency) and monitoring the bus’s journey from one airport to the other using GPS.
Connections from Lancaster Airport won’t be conducted behind the security barrier, showing the scrutiny TSA has applied to the bus journeys.
Meanwhile, the Philadelphia area is one of many places some regional flights are taking place on the motorway.
Landline has also partnered with United Airlines to offer connections between Denver and Fort Collins/Loveland Airport (FNL) and the Breckenridge ski resort and with Sun Country Airlines to deliver passengers from regional airports in Minnesota and North Dakota to Minneapolis–Saint Paul International Airport (MSP). However, none of these journeys have been awarded TSA clearance, and passengers must be screened upon arrival at the main airport.